There are many important responsibilities applicable to Christian missions. Yet, of all that can be listed, there are seven essential tasks that are most central. This article outlines and briefly discusses the seven main points pertinent to Christian missions.
Christian Foreign Missions exists to:
1. Exalt the Name of the One True God
2. Exemplify the Body of Christ
3. Evangelize Unbelievers
4. Educate Disciples
5. Establish Local Church Bodies
6. Equip and Empower National Leaders
7. Encourage the National Church as Co-Laborers in Christ
Exalt the Name of the One True God
First, Christian missions exists to exalt the Name of the One True God. Christians believe there is only one Lord God Almighty, Creator of the universe and all living things. He made every human being to be special, unique persons with eternal value in his sight. To exalt His Name means to glorify God or, in plain terms, to make God look good and attractive to others. Certainly, others have the right to reject God, but they should never reject him because of the unseemly character of a mission group or team member.
Exemplify the Body of Christ
Second, Christian missions is about exemplifying the Body of Christ. To exemplify Christ’s Body means to model the kind of loving fellowship that comes from knowing Jesus and walking together in God’s Holy Presence. Christian missionaries are far from perfect, but as a group they exist to demonstrate to others around the world a type of support and camaraderie that does not exist in the secular world. Christian mission teams are envoys or ambassadors that represent the Kingdom of God, a place of refuge, a safe harbor from the storms of life. To exemplify the Body of Christ means to value each member along with their special quirks and peculiarities and to help each other thrive to God’s fullest potential. As such, team members seek God together and when conflict arises, as inevitably it will, they are quick to talk through differences, forgive one another and walk forward together, hand-in-hand.
The third essential task of Christian Missions is to evangelize unbelievers. Unfortunately, the term – evangelize- has a bad connotation, as it gives the picture of a Christian hammering a non-Christian over the head with a Bible until they cower into submission and – pray the sinner’s prayer.- However, in this context, the term – evangelize- simply means – to tell the good news- of God’s great love for them. To testify about Him, who He is and what He has done.
If there is only One True God, then it is an imperative that Christians, including Christian missionaries, tell others about Him and how they can have a relationship with Him. Telling others the good news also includes telling them about God’s Son Jesus Christ, his loving sacrifice on the cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins, and how Jesus conquered death by resurrecting on the third day.
Perhaps, it should be written that telling the good news does not mean shoving Christ down another person’s throat. Not even the most persuasive person can make another person a true believer by coercion. Christian’s are called to be loving, kind and cordial. It is God’s task to convince others to believe; it is the Christian missionary’s task simply to present the good news in a loving manner.
Educate Disciples of Jesus Christ
The fifth purpose of Christian missions is to educate disciples. To educate disciples means to teach the new believers how to grow in their faith and knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. The main source of teaching should be the Christian Bible. New believers should be taught or trained in the basic fundamentals of Christian faith and practice, including how to:
– Worship God
– Read and study the Bible
– Pray for themselves and others
– Fellowship with other believers
– Deal with conflict
– Forgive themselves and others
– Tell others about God and Jesus
Establish Local Church Bodies
Another task germane to Christian missions is to establish local church bodies or to start new church groups. Christians were never meant to live their lives in isolation. Each person has been uniquely created to function within a wider organization of believers. The reason this is so is because each human being is finite in his or her abilities. No one is good at everything. Christians need one another to balance each other out and to help each other thrive to their optimum potential. The Christian Bible tells us that each member of the Christian family has been given unique spiritual gifts to aide in the administration of the church. The goal is to establish a place of loving fellowship where fellow believers can worship God and support one another in their relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
It should be noted that establishing a local church does not mean making the church in the likeness of American or Western cultural norms. Each culture has its own unique expression of what it means to do church. Missionaries should allow national believers to explore what doing church means in their own cultural context.
Finally, one part of the task of establishing a local church body is to teach and train them in administration of the church. This includes guiding them through the process of:
– Defining their own vision for the church,
– Writing out guidelines for church discipline
– Learning how to handle church finances.
Equip and Empower National Leaders
A sixth purpose of Christian Missions is to equip and empower national leaders. The ultimate goal of Christian mission teams is to work themselves out of a job. Many missionaries lack faith and trust in God to keep His church going when they leave. Christian leaders are often too slow to let go of the reigns of leadership to national believers. It seems a bit ironic that these missionaries, who trusted God enough to leave home and family to go to a strange land far off, are not able to muster enough faith in God to raise competent leadership in their stead. Even so, leadership development is a central task of the Christian mission team.
Encourage the National Church as Co-Laborers in Christ
It is not a proper objective for Christian mission organization to remain on soil forever. It is another imperative that mission teams define an exit strategy, clearly defining what a mature national church should look like and how to back out when the appropriate time comes. However, this does not mean that the relationship has to end. In fact, the seventh purpose of Christian missions is to encourage the national church as co-laborers in Christ. Such encouragement can come through letters or periodic visits. When a mission organization has exited from a foreign field, the national church and or one or more of the local bodies will have periods when they will experience hard times. It is not the job of the mission group to jump back over and re-take the reins, but rather to be there for moral support and encouragement.
There are many important responsibilities applicable to Christian missions. Yet, of all that can be listed, there are seven essential tasks that are most central. This article has outlined and briefly discussed the seven main points pertinent to Christian missions.
by Eric D Coggins